Zoning and Rezoning

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Links to Information:

This information is taken from the City of Raleigh website. Complete information can be found at: 

Zoning and Rezoning

Rezoning Process 

Permitted Uses 

Comprehensive Plan 

Neighborhood Plans 

Raleigh Municipal Code Online
This is the link provided by the City of Raleigh to the online version of the Code. The table of contents will be in the left window, Zoning is in Part 10. Use the arrows at the top of the site's window to browse selected sections. 


Zoning maps can be researched at:

Wake County iMaps

Zoning Terms and Definitions:

Zoning: The local government’s legal tool to regulate land use and development to assure its appropriateness. This authority is delegated by the State to municipalities and counties and includes regulation of uses, density, setbacks or yards, and building height. Other local ordinances may establish additional standards such as street design, storm drainage, building character, and historic preservation. 

Zoning ordinance: consists of 2 parts: the zoning map, which divides the community into various designated districts, and the text of the ordinance, which sets forth the type of use permitted under each zoning class and specific requirements for compliance. The purpose of zoning laws is to protect the residential environment – to ensure that development and growth take place in a rational way that is compatible with the desires of residents in a community.

Rezoning: The amendment of a property classification under use and building by-laws or ordinances.

Residential Zoning Classifications in our area:
Residential 4 (R-4) = up to 4 units per acre allowed
Residential 6 (R-6) = up to 6 units per acre allowed
Residential 10 (R-10) = up to 10 units per acre allowed 

Note: The differences between R-4 and R-6 are the minimum required area, the setbacks and the uses. The only way most R-6 or R-10 properties in the SCALE proposed rezoning area would be affected is in these instances:
    1. if property is large enough to subdivide
    2. not being able to build up to 5' of the side lot line
    3. not being able build closer to the street (20') and the rear of the lot (10'), and
    4 . not being able to build multi-family units if the lot is large enough (duplex, triplex, town houses, condominiums) Many existing front yards in the area are more than 40' from the ROW and side yards are typically more than 10'.

Spot zoning: Occurs when a property within a zoned area is rezoned to permit a use different from the zoning requirements for that zoned area. If the rezoning of a property is to benefit the property owner & has the effect of increasing the land value, the spot zoning is illegal and invalid. It is also illegal to single out one person’s property for spot zoning that will place a burden on that property & not on surrounding properties. 

Conditional Use: Conditional use zoning is a rezoning process that permits the attachment of conditions to the rezoning petition to ensure that development on the rezoned land will be compatible with surrounding uses and that adjacent properties are protected from negative impacts or loss of value that might result from the rezoning. The conditions typically address potential impacts or circumstances unique to the property or properties being rezoned and usually vary from case to case. Usually, these conditions consist of on-site design restrictions and requirements. However, they can also include requirements that the developer construct or pay for the construction of public off-site improvements. Conditions may dictate building placement, access point location, landscaping, lighting, use of the building(s), and nearly any aspect of the proposed development of the property. Although approved by the decision making body (City Council), the conditions must be identified by the rezoning applicant.

Nonconforming use: A legal nonconforming use occurs when the use of property in a zoned area is different from that specified by the area’s zoning code. When zoning is first imposed on an area or when property is rezoned, the zoning authority cannot require property owners to immediately discontinue an existing use that does not now conform to the zoning ordinance, because it was preexisting at the time the zoning regulation was instituted.  Property owner is allowed to continue a nonconforming use, which is lawful. A significant renovation often requires a variance before proceeding.  The variance makes the property conforming.

An illegal use is one that is contrary to the existing ordinance at the time the use is instituted. The difference between this concept and that of the nonconforming use is that the latter was preexisting at the time the zoning regulation was instituted.  The illegal use and the nonconforming use give rise to violation of the current code, BUT since the illegal use is a violation of the present law, it may be stopped or removed by injunction, whereas the nonconforming use cannot.

Variance: A variance is typically a small variation from code.  For example, if code says your side yard is supposed to be 5 feet or more, you could go before the Board of Adjustment to request a variance for a 4 foot side yard.  [Note: Variance requests go to the Board of Adjustment. A rezoning application goes to the Planning Commission and City Council.]

Setback: The required minimum horizontal distance between the building line and the related front, side, or rear property line.

Comprehensive Plan: Raleigh’s official long range policy statement adopted and amended by formal resolution of the City Council. A major component of the city’s planning process as it guides the long-range, comprehensive decision making process involving primarily physical development and city actions expected to influence development in the long-term.  Contains goals, objectives, policies and guidelines for growth and redevelopment for the city.